Shakespeare-inspired bean developed to thrive in British conditions

We have all heard about Jack And The Beanstalk, but what about Capulet on the beanstalk?

A “millennial” bean inspired by Shakespeare could become the UK’s next commercial plant-protein crop.

The new white haricot bean variety has been bred by researchers at the University of Warwick’s Crop Centre in Wellesbourne.

It was registered for national listing last year as Capulet.

Professor Eric Holub, a plant genetics expert from Warwick’s School of Life Sciences, said: “Currently, British farmers are not large-scale producers of haricot beans, because commercial varieties developed in other countries are poorly suited to our climate and light conditions.

University of Warwick
Professor Eric Holub (University of Warwick/PA)

“However, our eating habits are shifting in Britain towards a more plant-based or flexitarian diet.

“This is good news for improving our personal health as a nation and, according to a panel of global scientists who wrote the EAT-Lancet report – released in January 2019 – a shift to eating less meat is also good for the health of our planet.

“British consumers will have an opportunity to improve our food system if commercial varieties of haricot beans can be developed successfully for British farmers.”

Unlike most beans, Capulet is relatively quick to cook – needing just an hour to soak and 15 minutes to boil.

Haricot beans are most commonly eaten in the UK as baked beans, but the majority are produced in North America.

Speaking at the British Science Festival being held in Coventry and Warwickshire, Prof Holub said: “Our objective is to bring it (Capulet) into UK production for UK farmers.”

Development of the bean initially began in the 1980s, making it a millennial, he added.

Professor Eric Holub
Professor Eric Holub (University of Warwick/PA)

Prof Holub relaunched the work from previous Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food-funded research conducted at the Crop Centre, then the National Vegetable Research Station.

He began by evaluating descendants from previous bean breeding work and selected a distinctive and stable variety of small white haricot bean.

Haricot beans are a diverse and versatile crop, so cross-breeding continues to generate potential new varieties in a range of colours and sizes.

As the next step is commercial testing, Capulet has been trialled with an agronomy partner this year at several farms across England.

Prof Holub added: “We are a nation known for its love of beans, but, in the form of a processed food – British baked beans.

“But this product is neither British, because the raw ingredients are imported, nor baked, because they’re pressure cooked in a tin.

“Capulet may find its way into tins, however our approach to selecting new haricot bean varieties for consumers is to improve convenience for cooking at home from a raw ingredient.

“Positive consumer feedback at this stage will tell us we are doing something right. If there is demand and a market for a product, then British farmers will grow it.”

To meet the growing population demands farmers are having to look towards growing alternatives to conventional food supplies. Through scientific developments new foods can be made.

At MPA we are committed to supporting innovation in the UK by helping companies access government incentives such as R&D tax credits, which can provide necessary funding needed to continue pushing the boundaries of innovation through research and development.

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